ESSER Feedback and Input

Participants in the stakeholder meeting on ESSER plans along with the public at large are invited to provide their feedback and input on how DMPS uses federal pandemic relief funds. The survey asked two questions, which are shared below. Comments and replies from the survey to date are listed at the bottom of this page.

Question #1

Several areas of focus for planned projects and examples of potential projects were outlined in the presentation and discussed in the breakout groups:

(A) Operations / Facilities:
  •  Enhanced Cleaning
  • PPE
  • HVAC / Air Quality
  • Water Bottle Stations
(B) Technology:
  • Online Learning Platform (Canvas)
  • Expansion of Virtual Academy
  • Connectivity for Students
  • Technology for Students and Staff
(C) Unfinished Learning:
  • Summer Learning
  • Enrichment Programming
  • Academic Tutoring
  • Curricular Resources
(D) Social / Emotional and Mental Health Services:
  • Building meaningful partnerships between families, schools, and the community
  • Addressing foundational needs of students in the natural environment

Question #2

What ideas do you have on how the district could spend ESSER III funds to best support students?

Q. What is planned for COVID mitigation, including air filtration, cleaning, water bottle filling stations, and PPE?
Building ventilation rates increased in all district facilities; the district has implemented extended ventilation run times. In rooms with operable windows, staff may elect to open windows (NOTE: this may have an impact on the mechanical system and impact the comfort of students & staff.) The district plans to use ESSER funds to implement mechanical upgrades in several buildings.

The district has implemented enhanced disinfecting processes in every building, with a focus on high-touch points. In addition, the district has changed disinfectant products to use one that has a shorter contact time required for effectiveness.

The district is working with procurement and service providers to install water bottle filling stations in all district facilities.

Various PPE items, sanitizers, and equipment have been purchased in bulk by the district so they are available on-demand for schools. These items include gloves, masks, face shields, gowns, hand sanitizer, disinfectant, soap, bleach, wipes, computer wipes, Lysol, and spray bottles and triggers.

Q. What is being done to make students comfortable with returning to school in-person?
The district is encouraging and modeling proper mask-wearing. Social/Emotional support is a focus for both students and staff.

Q. Will funds be used to support students?
The district is implementing numerous strategies to support students, including increasing the number of student devices, improving the quality of instructional materials for students, providing students additional learning opportunities, ensuring highly qualified teachers are in classrooms, and improving the physical environment of the school building.

Q. What is planned to increase student access to digital resources?
All DMPS students can check out a school computer for home use, and computers are sent home as needed. In addition, students can check out MiFi devices to close the connectivity divide. A FCC grant the district was recently awarded will be used to purchase at-home student devices for check out. At the K-8 level, the district has implemented a common literacy curriculum, which means across the grade levels and across the schools, students and teachers use the same texts in units. These texts have been vetted to ensure they are representative of the students we serve in authorship, experience, and diversity. The district piloted leasing digital copies of some of these texts. Given the success of the pilot, the district is purchasing the entire K-8 literacy curriculum texts digitally.

Q. Will ESSER funds be used to provide additional technology support for teachers and families?
The district is providing increased resources to support building-tech specialists. The building tech specializes are the persons who lead the efforts in the schools to meet the technology needs of school staff and individual families.

Q. Will there be learning opportunities outside of the traditional school day?
The district has developed a list of extended learning opportunities, including afterschool, in-school and extended credit recovery, and summer recovery and enrichment for students.

Q. Are ESSER funds being used to increase the number of teachers?
The district plans to use ESSER funds to hire 35-40 December graduates from college teaching programs for immediate placement in the full-time district sub pool. The plan is that in the Spring, these teachers will be placed into full-time classrooms that will be open in the fall. The district plans to use ESSER funds to pay for credentialing for staff for hard-to-fill positions (e.g., SPED, science).

Q. Will these funds be used to increase equity?
Equity and equality are the focus of all DMPS efforts. ESSER efforts are distributed across all schools. An equity lens influences decisions in Des Moines and lives in all strategies. Equity is not a standalone effort. Equity is embedded in all decisions, including the allocation of resources. All DMPS strategic plan work (which has been ramped up thanks to ESSER funding) is grounded in equity efforts. Additional information can be found at:

Q. What is the district doing to address the Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and needs of students?
The district utilizes an integrated service plan that includes the input of professional mental health and behavior specialists, including social workers, psychologists, and SEL coordinators. At the system level, through the adoption of the MTSS framework, the district has structured classrooms led by caring, high-quality instructors, which provides a safe learning environment for students. As a system, the district has a continuum of support to address the needs of the individual. There is a school-based therapist and social worker assigned to every school. At the middle and high school levels, a social worker is at each school full-time.

Social/Emotional Learning is an integral component of education. The entire October district-wide professional development focused on SEL. The district believes SEL should be integrated, rather than a stand-alone effort. Thus, SEL will continue to be incorporated into all building and district-led professional learning moving forward. By integrating SEL into ongoing efforts, the district is making strides to embed SEL into the culture of the district.

The district has multiple SEL leadership teams. One SEL leadership team will work on the implementation of SEL in the classroom. Utilizing best practices, the district is providing intensive professional learning opportunities to adults to create the conditions for the successful implementation of SEL strategies.

District Instructional Coaches are receiving training on SEL and are supporting the district SEL implementation plan, in addition to traditional mental health advocates (e.g., counselors, social workers, psychologists).

Q. Can ESSER funds be used to implement a universal SEL screener for students?
For many years, the district used a universal screening at the secondary level. When that screener was discontinued nationally, the district moved to a different screening that tool that the district did not feel had solid enough research to continue its use. Consequently, the district has not used a universal screener since. However, this is an option that the district will investigate to determine if there is a valid mental health screening tool available to use in schools.